Radhika Maira Tabrez is the author of the newly released ‘In The Light Of Darkness’ – her debut novel, for which she has won the Muse India – Satish Verma Young Writer Award 2016. She has also won many other national writing contests and her stories have been published in UnBound; Sankaarak; Defiant Dreams; When They Spoke and Mock, Stock and Quarrel.
Before her foray into writing, Radhika was a Learning and Development professional with over twelve years of experience spanning ITeS, Travel, Telecom and BFSI sectors, during which she held many senior management positions. She is an MBA in Human Resources from SIBM, Pune; where she went on to become the first and till-date the only female to be elected as President of the Students’ Council.
She is now a mother, a writer, a writing coach, a freelance trainer, an editor and a motivational speaker. She lives a quiet life in a small town called Unchahar, with her husband, son and four birds.
She is an active member of the Kalam Library Project.
Tell us about yourself, your background and what you do currently
I am on the most fundamental level, a dreamer; and that facet has always dominated all aspects of my life. I am constantly toying with a ‘what if…’. I can’t survive without Jazz and chocolates. I am crazy about collecting broken bits and pieces of things and fashioning them into something useful or beautiful. It started out as a hobby but is almost an obsessive compulsion by now. I believe it has helped me become much calmer and understanding a person.
Before circa 2012, I was a learning and development professional with over twelve years of experience across Telecom, Travel and Hospitality, ITeS and BFSI sectors. I am an MBA in Human Resources from SIBM, Pune.
Currently I am a mother, a writer, a columnist, an editor, a trainer and a motivational speaker.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not really; not the initiation, anyway. While I have been a scribbler all my life, I never really delved into any form of professional writing. Let’s just say, life got in the way, always. My debut novel was a happy happenstance. A story developed in my head which I just had to pen down and I did. A few people read it and said that it needed to be seen by a publisher. And that set the whole thing in motion. But, now am I a drawing up plans, and charting a proper course; because I love being a writer.
What has been your biggest challenge in achieving your success?
Self Discipline. I could name a dozen other external factors here, yet none of them were bigger than or invincible, once I mastered and disciplined (with quite a difficulty, I must add) my own will. All my experiences so far had led me to believe that.
What has been your greatest achievement personally?
I would like to name three here; which for me, stand out more than the others.
First – In 2007 when I joined SIBM for my MBA, I learned that in the 31 year history of that college, they had not had a single female President of the Students’ Council. It was a fact that piqued my interest, as well as frustrated me on some level. I decided to give it a go. And I was elected as the first (and till date the only) female President. It was a tough year, I made many mistakes and learned an incredible lot; yet it is a year I am immensely proud of.
Second – My transition from a career woman to a stay-home mother. A lot of my friends and family thought that I was making a mistake by quitting my job to raise my son. I knew they all said this with the best of intentions, based purely on my disposition as a person. So I knew what a tough task I had cut out for me. I think I have never worked harder on any job and yet grown to love it so much.
Third – My debut novel ‘In The Light Of Darkness’ has won me the Muse India Satish Verma Young Writer Award 2016. I consider this as a huge achievement for a person whose foray into a novelist’s life was more providential than planned; and for someone who wrote an honest story purely based on what she wanted to write and not ‘what sells’ these days.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to pen their debut novel?
Telling a story has to come from your heart, at least as much as if not more, from your mind. When you’re writing your first draft, be honest to yourself and your story. Don’t think about the audiences’ reception, the readers’ market, the publishing challenges; anything. All these considerations have a way of creeping into your thought process and adulterating your writing. Let your heart take the lead here. Once you’ve got the first draft out, only then let the brain tell you how to make your product technically sound and viable to a market. But here again, for any major decision you take regarding your story, the characters or the plotline; make sure you only do it because ‘you’ are sure it is the best for the story. That helps you keep your voice original and distinctive.
If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you be doing?
I would probably still be married to my corporate life. It wasn’t a bad life and I sure tasted many successes in that life too. But the ones that have achieved in my literary career have felt far more fulfilling. Besides, the courage to finally follow what I am passionate about has brought positive changes in me as a person.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
There are many people who come to mind, from my personal life and others that I know of. Yet, the name foremost on that list is a gentleman called Nick Vujicic. Nick was born with a condition called phocomelia, without some fully formed limbs. And today he is a published writer, a Christian evangelist and a motivational speaker. His whole life – the trials and tribulations he must have been through, the pain and suffering and also his resurgence – is such an inspirational story. I am in awe of him and often watch his videos when I am feeling bummed out with life. He, quite literally, epitomise the indefatigable human spirit. If he can do what all he has managed to, with what he had; I don’t see how and why any one of us can ever complain of not having enough resources or opportunities.
What does the future hold for you?
Certainly a lot more of writing. I have almost finished my next book and am about to start with my third. Along with that I also lend my voice and effort to a few causes that are close to my heart – Women Empowerment and Literacy in children. I am an active member of Kalam Library Project. But I intend to get more deeply involved with these. I also plan to start an Expressions workshop for children in the township where I live; the workshop will focus on the children expressing themselves with any art form they are comfortable with. The idea is for them to learn to express themselves more efficiently and confidently.